Zaugoth sat bolt upright. He held is right arm parallel to the ground, with Neleg Amlug as a natural extension of his outstretched limb.
The Captain of his personal guard's head rolled to a stop some feet away from his crumpled body.
From a safer distance away, another man spoke, "my Lord Zaugoth, I warned him not to stand so close when he woke you."
"What time is it?"
"One hour past sunset, m'lord."
Zaugoth had not wished to sleep so long. He lay down to rest sometime mid-afternoon, intending only to gather his strength for an hour. Now, his men had allowed him to sleep for fear of what happened to the captain.
"Who are you?" Zaugoth stood, straightening his clothes and armor.
"Mahmed ibn Ahmud of Harad, lord. I am second in command of you personal guard."
"Well Mahmed, congratulations, looks like you've been promoted," said Zaugoth without even looking at the man.
The dark warrior climbed to the rim of the little hollow in which he had chosen to rest and surveyed the field. Immediately, his eyes fell upon the left flank of Tempest's army, where orc fought orc.
"What is this, Mahmed? Infighting amongst the Lady's troops?"
"No sir, it is what the captain was coming to tell you of. A regiment of our orc infantry has engaged the enemy."
"WHAT!? By whose command?"
"Apparently none sir. Our spies caught one of her scouts and made him talk. This scout was Uruk-hai and not easily broken. I saw to it myself, sir. In the end it was his arrogance that was his downfall. He boasted that Tempest had called upon mountain trolls to fight alongside her army."
"What has this to do with disobeying orders?"
"Nothing yet, sir." Mahmed was beginning to sweat, but to his credit, he held his ground and did not show his desire to flee Zaugoth's wrath. "I told the uruk that Trolls are nothing to boast about. Our army has trained for years with Trolls and can defeat them easily. He only chuckled past his broken jaw. 'That's not all my lady has in store for you and those Lulgijakrim*1 in the trees. She has called the winged beasts to rain hell from the sky upon her enemies!' I'm afraid the effort of his gloating was more than he could take in his condition, sir. It was the last thing he said. I believe that the rumor of this reached the nearest regiment," he gestured with a thumb over his shoulder, indicating the skirmish, "-that one- and they decided to attack before the flying beasts arrive, out of fear what they might be or how they might be killed."
"Bring me the captain's body and head," seethed Zaugoth, "place it upon the crest of the hill."
The Ur-Dirk closed his eyes and raised his arms until they were extended at either side, palms up. He lifted his face to the sky and held still there for a long moment. Finally, he slowly lowered his hands and turned to face Mahmed, a sinister grin upon his face.
Zaugoth strode to the prostrate body of the captain, bent, picked the head up off the ground and placed it upon the corpse's breast. He drew in a deep breath. The battlefield rumbled once again with Zaugoth's primal roar; it reverberated at alarming levels for the entire length and breadth of the field, as well as within the neo-forest; and once again, the faint of heart among the armies of Tempest and Zaugoth fell upon their faces and covered their ears. Swords and spears were stilled in mid-blow as the skirmish stopped short.
"Tutasim! Conog zourdam?! Mat nadhaub!!"*2
The words exploded into the ears of all living creatures upon the Anfauglith, causing agony on their own. His guard encircled the hill Zaugoth stood in a ring with no gap larger than an arm's length. As the sound of his voice trailed off into distant echo, some of them turned to watch their master.
He had grown to immense stature, and his face had become beast-like, with red slit-pupiled eyes like an undead feline and within his sneer they espied the curved fangs and forked tongue of a dragon.
Again the Zaugloth roared; and many of his orcs that knew they were about to be punished fell upon their own swords, wailing. The savage cry intensified, lifted into an ear-splitting screech, like the death-shriek of a phoenix as it bursts into flame, then ended as its frequency extended far above the aural capabilities of any living thing in Middle-earth. Zaugoth raised Neleg Amlug above his head tip-down with his hands reversed on the hilt. He held still and raised his face to the heavens. As he stood there motionless, members of his guard could see that his mouth moved as he spoke a silent incantation.
Suddenly and with the force of a giant, he thrust the black blade of the Dragon's Tooth down through the dead captain's skull, through his body, piercing the heart, and into the earth below.
Instantly all sound ceased to exist. It was not merely silent, but a vacuum had formed, centered where the sword had penetrated the ground and sucking all sound into itself and causing a painful pressure upon the eardrums of all upon the field and within the wood.
Slowly and distantly, the whisper of wind began in the back of their minds. As it gained intensity, all faces turned to the sky. What they saw was the clouds being blown from all directions toward the point in the sky directly above the pommel of Neleg Amlug. There, as the remainder of the sky became crystal clear and revealed the moon and the stars, a singularly terrifying thunderhead loomed.
As the last shreds of vapor were gathered unto the sinister cloud that hung above the little hill, Zaugoth knelt, placed his hands upon the hilt of his sword, bowed his head with closed eyes and whispered a single word.
With all the cacophony of a hurricane compressed into a single thunderclap, the entire cloud surged down and funneled into sword's pommel, down through the blade and the captain's corpse and into the earth beneath the Ur-Dirk's knees.
It was still for a moment - an ordinary stillness in which men and orcs and beasts could be heard panting with fear and anticipation.
Then the screams began.
With a hiss like the rushing of poisonous steam escaping from a vent upon the slopes of Orodruin, blasts of boiling vapor shot up from the ground beneath the feet of Zaugoth's disobedient regiment. Tempest's troops fled from the beleaguered orcs as the steam flayed them open from their toes up. The upward pressure of the steam prevented them from falling until the ordeal finally ended for each of them. In a vicious twist, they did not lose consciousness until death took them, which did not occur until after the skin and muscles of their faces were gone and the superheated steam had penetrated their brain cases.
When the death-yowl of the last member of the rogue unit went silent and the last of the vapor had rushed from the ground, Zaugoth stood, pulled Neleg Amlug free of the captain's corpse and sheathed it. He assumed his human appearance again and, stepping over the body, raised his head again to address his troops, which lay hidden in wait in several positions surrounding Tempest's army. His gritty voice, however, projected into the minds of all, regardless of allegiance.
"Lat Zaugoth baurobzot Nazgûl! Timer nariastazim!"*3
Zaugoth turned to the northeast and raised his hands once again. His voice echoed across the Anfauglith.
"U Zaugoth kilzotrim! Narkrimplatuk u Murlat! Zaugoth kritak Melkor nar Murlat!"*4
Mist from the rising deadly vapors hung over the unnaturally silent battlefield and obscured the moon and stars so that utter darkness fell over the eyes of all like a black veil. Not a soul stirred.
Faintly at first, then more distinctly as the seconds drew out to minutes, the sound of leathery wings flapping upon the wind signaled the coming of the fell beasts. Even when they arrived above the field they were invisible above the mist. They circled several times and finally lighted upon the hill between Zaugoth and the ring of his guard. Despite their utter terror, not one man of the dark warrior's guard fled, or even moved - a testament to the powerful example he had just made of how cowards are dealt with in his ranks. The largest of the nine beasts landed in the center of the hill before Zaugoth. It lowered its great head in reverence. The Ur-Dirk tilted his head in return.
Then the beast let out a blood-curdling shriek and bent its head to the corpse of the captain at its feet, caught up the body and head within its jaws with a grotesque crunch and with a great leap, returned to the sky followed by the rest of the beasts. With the mist obscuring them from view, the cries of the beasts and the flapping of their wings as they held vigil above the silent battle plain were the only report those on the ground had of their positions.
Without the promise of the heir of the Witch-king of Angmar to protect them from the winged horrors above, throngs of orcs and men scratched the symbol of the Iron Crown over their Lidless Eye insignia and walked with hands raised towards Zaugoth's position, where they fell to their knees and swore allegiance on pain of death (which they were all too aware would be dealt mercilessly) to the Iron Crown. The Ur-Dirk's elite guardsmen received them, ordered them into ranks and arrayed them around the high ground of Tempest's own position.
Throughout the night, Zaugoth stood upon the hill's crest, directly over the steaming fissure where an entire sky's worth of vapor had jetted into the earth, allowing his presence to be felt - heartening his own troops, cowering Tempest's, and allowing the denizens of the Light hiding within the forest to regroup and formulate a plan.
In the small hours of the morning while the mist-shrouded sky was still black as pitch and just as Tempest's captains had begun to restore order to her even-further-depleted ranks, a great booming like immense drums thundered from the forest just across from the largest contingent of her army, directly in the center of the field.
Zaugoth projected his fairest voice into the mind of Tempest, "Dearest Queen, now is the opportune time to join with me, before the cursed walking trees march upon the greater part of what's left of your army. You are surrounded on five sides, by the hated weak-minded elves and their ilk before you, my (formerly your) army on the ground to both sides and behind, and the sky-lords above. Will you not concede that fighting between us only gives the cowardly elf-kind the advantage, whereas if we join forces, they would have no more chance than ants beneath a troll's foot? Come to me. Bring as big a contingent of guards as you like. So long as their blades stay sheathed, so shall ours and you will have free passage to me. Come, let's talk this over." Then he added smugly, "Oh, and let's leave the sleeve-daggers behind this time, dearest."
*1. Flowers in the blood. A euphemism for elf or "wimp" (only not so nice an insult.)
*2. Cowards! Break my command? Die in agony!
*3. Your Black Lord is the son of the Lord of the Nazgûl! Fear no beast of the sky!
*4. To the Black Lord, sky-lords. You are not bound by Tempest. The Black Lord is the captain of Melkor, not Tempest!(yes, there's a Black Speech word for "Tempest". cool, huh?)
Take that!! If this doesn't get the RP going full speed around here, then I am at a complete loss.